The Assault on Marriage Continues

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist and a leading gay activist. He is probably best known for spearheading the “It Gets Better Project”—a YouTube campaign encouraging gay teenagers that being gay gets better after high school. He has received a great deal of favorable press from mainstream media outlets, even though his work as a gay activist includes a fair amount of morally dubious activities.

Mark Oppenheimer recently profiled Savage in a lengthy piece for The New York Times Magazine. Oppenheimer’s article focuses on Dan Savage’s prescription for healthy marriages—non-monogamy. Savage argues not only that gay marriage should be legal but also that monogamy should be discarded as a marital norm. From Oppenheimer’s article:

Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.

Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, … others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.

“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”

The view that we need a little less fidelity in marriages is dangerous for a gay-marriage advocate to hold. It feeds into the stereotype of gay men as compulsively promiscuous, and it gives ammunition to all the forces, religious and otherwise, who say that gay families will never be real families and that we had better stop them before they ruin what is left of marriage. But Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. And that, Savage says, destroys more families than it saves.

Savage believes that whatever sexual urges one feels should be embraced and pursued. Any marital norms that deny such urges are oppressive and unrealistic. Both gay and straight couples need to consider the possibility of non-monogamy—a mutual agreement that allows occasional infidelity.

Some people believe that the debate about gay marriage is simply a matter of legalizing the unions of same-sex partners. They are wrong. It is about deconstructing what nature and the Bible teach us about the meaning of our sexuality. Until that truth is eliminated from our consciences, the assault will continue.

Savage illustrates again what I posted about last week. Many gay marriage supporters are not simply seeking legally sanctioned gay unions; they want to bring an end to marriage as we know it. Pointing this out is not playing the part of the alarmist. It is just a matter of paying attention to arguments that are entering more and more into mainstream of public discourse.

If you haven’t been paying attention, now would be a good time to start.


  • Ryan K.

    It is mind boggling to me when the “experts” on marriage are so far removed from the actual implications of their ideas or any actual experience with them.

    The fact that the media listens to Mr. Savage as a credible voice on what makes a healthy marriage is astounding, and only shows the disconnect from reality.

    Advocating sexual promiscuity in marriage is about as naive as saying it is safe to store nuclear waste in a sandbox. It is naive in the respect of even understanding what humans are and how they emotionally work, but it is also historically ignorant as similar models of marriage have been tried throughout human history and always long term led to poor results.

  • Mark D McKeen

    does anyone else feel that the marriage debate in america is kind of like a baseball game where both teams showed up to different fields to play?

    the liberals are arguing for something that doesn’t exist, and us conservatives are arguing for standards from an authority that liberals don’t hold.

    I’m for marriage between one man and one woman, and I agree, Denny, that if gay marriage is legalized in america, we won’t be long sliding down the steep slope of moral decline.

    Scripture must be the authority, whether people want to recognize it or not.

  • henrybish

    Imagine how outrageous that article would have sounded 60 years ago. Nobody would have thought it would be on the horizon.

  • pedalingparson

    Same-sex unions have never been about marriage, but about legislating a lifestyle while promoting pansexuality as a panacea. Same-sex advocates are still hard pressed to answer the question: If marriage is no longer an exclusive monogamous union between one man and one woman for a lifetime, then who is to say marriage must be limited to just two people? This is the redefinition of marriage and family that the sexual revolution has long sought.

  • Allie

    Good stuff Mark as you do have an apt analogy there.

    The liberal case wants to redefine what baseball even is, and when the traditionalist say, “no in order for it to be baseball there must be four bases, 3 strikes, 4 balls and so forth.”

    The liberal case than argues that this is to narrow a view of baseball and that it must be changed or you are being discriminative.

  • Allen Burns

    “If you haven’t been paying attention, now would be a good time to start.”
    -simply a brilliant line!

    I am overwhelmed with the lack of engagement many believers have with what is going on around them.

  • Louis Tullo

    What an incredible indication of the underlying issue in “so-called” gay marriage – human pride. People like Dan are attacking the value of fidelity because of a belief that our natural impulses and desires are good. The unsaved world fails to recognized depravity because it’s an impossible truth to face without Christ. Instead, to alleviate that dissonance, they exalt their impulses. I pray that God has mercy and calls people out of that sin.

  • Paul

    I’ll try this again and see if Denny lets it through this time:

    Let’s try to remember something here. Dan Savage is a sex advice columnist, not a policy maker. And, for a while, he took the stance that gay people shouldn’t even want to get married. This is a guy that makes his living off of talking about having lots and lots of sex. So, what’s the natural thing to say for a guy that talks about sex all the time? That it’s ok to have sex with whoever you want.

    The sky is not falling, folks.

  • Chris

    Not only is the assault on marriage in full swing but there is also an assault on family and children:

    “Face Value will examine the “harms children” argument that anti-gay opponents have successfully used in political and social campaigns for the past 30 years, said Davis.

    Face Value is affiliated with Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. The project plans to get to the heart of anti-gay attacks using interdisciplinary in-depth research to produce revamped educational materials and messages to aid organizations with eradicating homophobia.

    For the first time ever a consortium of leading academics, researchers, communications strategists, and select community-based organizations convened in April at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston to launch the project.

    The Ford Foundation grant is really looking at how we move beyond this “harms children trigger,” said Davis.

  • Gabe

    “Not only is the assault on marriage in full swing but there is also an assault on family and children”

    Say what?? Did you even read the article? How is this an attack on children and the family. They are simply defending themselves against the argument from the anti-gay community that homosexuality is harmful to children. Research simply doesn’t support the position that homosexuality, or growing up in a same-sex household, is harmful to children. Can you blame them for defending themselves against such a false claim?

    The article is simply pointing out that bringing children into the argument also brings in a tremendous amount of emotion and fear. By making this false claim, the anti-gay community, whether intentionally or not, has essentially scared a large portion of the public from accepting same-sex marriage. Just tell them it harms children and suddenly it’s a lot harder to reason with them.

    They would be crazy not to defend themselves against such a false claim.

  • Wistful Writer

    Hello everyone,

    Firstly, I just want to say that I am glad that there are others who are recognize the implications Dan Savage’s stance on monogamy. I thought that I might be one of the few out there who still believe in fighting urges and exercising willpower in order to better oneself rather than giving in to these so-called “sexual needs” — which aren’t even real ‘needs’.

    I just wanted to share my article with all of you:

    I know that Dan Savage is not some policy maker. But he *is* in a highly visible position of public influence. Also, he is supposedly pro-family and pro-marriage: for me, it is his suggestion that we should have “less fidelity” that I wholeheartedly disagree with.

    While I do not take any religious stance, I do take a moral one and I hope that you all can contribute to the discussion: I would like to hear more of your thoughts on the matter. Regardless of our backgrounds, those of us who still believe in the institution of lifelong monogamous marriage would do well to band together to discuss the state of affairs.

  • Chris

    Gabe I suggest you do some more research. Kids belong with a mother and father. That’s whats best for them.

    Anything that tries to disapprove that supported reality is an attack and will harms kids and families!

  • Tim Webb

    Oh my. I’m shocked. I went to college 20 years ago… how is what this guy is saying any different than what’s been said for at least the last 20 years?

  • Paul

    “Gabe I suggest you do some more research. Kids belong with a mother and father. That’s whats best for them.
    Anything that tries to disapprove that supported reality is an attack and will harms kids and families!”

    Not that I disagree with you, but this is circular logic at its best. Don’t do that.

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